The economic development of Africa took a major turn when oil was discovered in the 1960s. Nigeria became the largest economy of Africa and is expected to be one of the world’s leading economies by 2020, mostly due to the petroleum sector. While foreign investment plays a major role in the development of Nigeria’s economy, the real driving force is development by Nigerians themselves, as Nigerian banker and philanthropist Tony Elumelu has said, “No one can develop Africa but us [Africans].” He also outlined that progress must be made through the model of sound African leadership and the development of the private sector, instead of through aid. “We have an emerging affluent class in Africa. Unfortunately, the institution of giving has not been professionalized,” he said. “We need the legal structures in place to really leverage Africa’s own wealth to set the continent’s development agenda from within.”
Agriculture is the new oil
While too much attention is given to the petroleum sector, it can be put into perspective by showcasing that it is only a part of an active and diversified economy.
According to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, regarding the field of agriculture in the country, “Nigeria has abundant resources – 84 million hectares of arable land, two of Africa’s largest rivers and a large, youthful workforce.” Developing the agricultural sector is a key factor in the paradigm shift towards self-reliance. For example, the production of cereals and sweeteners has given prompted the the government to reduce imports of these substances and replace them with quality home-grown materials instead.
The agricultural sector produces more gainful employment than the petroleum sector, and has a more far-reaching effect as it directly engages and changes the lives of the poor. Even an uneducated farmer who is guided, focused and determined can succeed in agriculture, allowing him to employ farm workers and therefore creating jobs. Farmers and farm workers work throughout the season of their crop and live on the earnings all year.
Service industry of Nigeria
The service industry of Nigeria includes transport, tourism, financial services, media and entertainment. But for the purpose of this article we will touch only transport and tourism.
The infrastructure of transport in Nigeria is weak and needs work. The government is working on this by strengthening the framework. The privatization of the railway is underway as well as partial privatization of the ports, which will lead to improvement of port facilities and operations.
Tourism in Nigeria is largely related to different events that take place within the country throughout the year. Some examples are cultural festivals such as Durbar festivals in the north. Another attraction is to visit national parks such as Old Oyo, Yankari, and Cross River National Parks.
Remittances from Nigerians working and living abroad form the second largest foreign earnings, second only to petroleum earnings.
This article is not exhaustive but has touched the some areas with the most potentials for the economic development of Nigeria. Nigeria has the human resources required to run all the different types of industries but these industries need to get the needed funding, as well as infrastructure in order to succeed and scale.